Moving is always a big task, but moving abroad presents its own set of unique challenges. Dealing with language barriers and cultural differences is tricky enough, but managing the logistics of moving — like securing a visa, packing, and deciding how to transport your stuff — can make things extra complicated.
If you have no clue where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of the most important things you need to do before leaving the country indefinitely.
1. Research Moving Companies.
As soon as you know when and where you’re moving, start searching for reputable moving companies to assist with the process. Lior Rachmany, the founder and CEO of Dumbo Moving + Storage in New York City, says conducting thorough research is key.
“Find a moving company that is specifically trained and that has the proper licensing and insurance for international moves,” he says.
Check out international moving companies based in your current location, as well as those based in your new city to see how they compare. Make sure you ask questions about the cost of the move, moving insurance, the timeline, the services included, and the types of storage containers the company uses.
After you narrow down your search, Rachmany recommends asking your top choices for references. “Personal recommendations from satisfied customers will give you the peace of mind and instill the trust that you need for an international move,” he says.
2. Prepare The Necessary Documents.
The biggest hassle of moving to another country isn’t the packing — it’s the paperwork. Obtaining a visa can be a particularly tedious, lengthy process, so it’s smart to get started filling out forms, updating your passport, and making embassy appointments as early as possible.
You’ll also need to talk to your bank about transferring to an international branch, or, if that’s not possible, discuss the process of withdrawing your money and deactivating your accounts. Plus, you may need to visit your primary doctor to get vaccines, prescriptions, or papers detailing your health history.
“Even your pets must have proper documentation for the move,” Rachmany says, which is why it’s crucial that you double-check your forms before you leave.
If you’re overwhelmed, seek help.
“Talk with your moving company to see if they offer a customs brokerage service to help you with the process of moving to a new country,” says Rachmany.
Start paring down your belongings several months before you move. Kirsten Fisher, founder and CEO of Imagine Home Organization, says there are several factors to consider when deciding what to keep or get rid of, including the climate and culture of your new home, your new living accommodations, your everyday activities, as well as the time it will take for your stuff to arrive.
To start decluttering, first sort your belongings by category, says Fisher, and then eliminate anything you know you won’t use in your new home.
Sharon McRill, owner and president of The Betty Brigade, a personal organization and relocation service in Ann Arbor, Michigan, recommends getting rid of your electrical equipment and appliances. “Most homes are sold with a stove, fridge, or washer and dryer in the home,” she says. Plus, your appliances may not have the right voltage for your new location.
As a general rule, be ruthless and don’t bring items you could easily purchase in your new home.
“It’s expensive to transport items to another country, especially if you have to cross an ocean,” says Rachmany. He recommends leaving behind bigger pieces like couches and bookcases, and bringing only clothes and personal items.
4. Secure Your Stuff.
Along with obtaining moving insurance, it’s a good idea to keep a personal inventory of your stuff to ensure it arrives safely. Once you decide what to pack, make a list of all the items you’ll be shipping or sending with your moving company, along with the number of boxes you have.
Next, pack your personal luggage with all the items you’ll need immediately upon arrival, plus anything too precious to travel with your moving company. Think: clothes, toiletries, prescription medication, electronic devices, cameras, and jewelry.
5. Tie Up Loose Ends At Home.
It’s easy to get so caught up preparing for your arrival in a new country that you forget about the logistics of your departure.
“Three months before your move,” says Fisher, “write down every bill you receive to prepare your list of things to cancel and people to notify.”
Utility bills, magazine subscriptions, and change of address forms are just a few examples.
Though you can cancel the majority of your accounts and subscriptions online, Rachmany recommends giving yourself extra time to complete these tasks in case you run into obstacles the last week before your move.
6. Research Your New Neighborhood.
To ease some of your pre-move anxiety, carve out time to familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood. Do some research on the public transportation options in the area, map out your work commute, or Google the nearest post office location, grocery store, park, or restaurant.
It’s also a good idea to set up some connections with people living in your area. Start by joining your city’s community Facebook page to check out upcoming events or activities, or email acquaintances and friends of friends in the area to tell them when you arrive. Fisher also recommends joining an expat group to get a sense of community and meet others going through similar experiences.
7. Plan Arrival Details.
A little advance planning sets you up for a smoother, less stressful arrival.
“The first thing you need to do is tell your cell phone provider that you’re moving,” Rachmany says, “because your phone may not work when you enter the new country.”
He also says it’s important to figure out how you’ll get your set of keys, how you’ll get to your place from the airport, and whether or not you have to turn on the utilities before your arrival. If you’re overwhelmed, Fisher says a relocation specialist can assist with transportation, utility set-up, and general move coordination.
8. Schedule Downtime.
Instead of diving straight into the moving and unpacking processes after you land, consider blocking off some time to recover from jet lag and ease into the transition.
“Moves can be stressful in themselves,” Rachmany says, “so it may be better to stay in a hotel for a few days so you have access to WiFi — making it easier in general to coordinate the move.”
9. Mentally Prepare Yourself For Change.
“Moving abroad is a wonderfully enriching and exciting appearance,” says Fisher. But it’s also a massive change, one that requires you to learn, adapt, and grow. “It is important to realize things will be different — some better and some challenging,” Fisher says, “so try to take it in stride.”